Leahy says Senate could move patent reform this week

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said Monday the Senate could move patent reform legislation this week.

“During the next few days the Senate can come together and pass this legislation,” said Leahy, who added that the bill “cuts across the political spectrum.”

Leahy said the patent reform bill would help U.S. businesses compete with counterparts in China and other countries.

“Delaying is saying we want China to overcome us,” said Leahy. “Moving is saying we want to remain competitive. We should be able to complete this work easily by the middle of the week if we want.”

The bill would modernize the U.S. patent system, moving it from a first-to-file system to a first-to-invent system. That change, aimed at reducing patent litigation costs, would bring the U.S. system in line with those of almost every other country in the world.

The Senate Judiciary Committee began considering several versions of the Patent Reform Act starting in 2005 but ran into opposition and various obstacles along the way. The last time Congress enacted significant patent reform was more than 60 years ago.

While Leahy sounded a note of confidence, the patent reform bill faces an uncertain future on the floor.

The Senate is preparing to debate a spending bill that would keep the government funded beyond March 4, and that debate is likely to consume the Senate’s energy this week.

In addition, while the patent reform bill’s supporters include Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and was approved by Leahy’s committee unanimously, it is opposed by a number of conservative leaders, including Phyllis Schlafly, the founder of the special interest group Eagle Forum.

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